Read the powerful stories and rich history of Indigenous Peoples in Canada and North America with the books listed below.
There are, of course, hundreds, if not thousands of titles that we could include in this list, however we wanted to focus primarily on recent titles as well as those that have a strong legacy.
We are also continually updating this list as we discover new books by or about Indigenous Peoples, and if you feel that we should include a particular title or author we encourage you to contact us with more information.
The Politics of the Canoe
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Popularly thought of as a recreational vehicle and one of the key ingredients of an ideal wilderness getaway, the canoe is also a political vessel. A potent symbol and practice of Indigenous cultures and traditions, the canoe has also been adopted to assert conservation ideals, feminist empowerment, citizenship practices, and multicultural goals. Documenting many of these various uses, this book asserts that the canoe is not merely a matter of leisure and pleasure; it is folded into many facets of our political life. Taking a critical stance on the canoe, The Politics of the Canoe expands and enlarges the stories that we tell about the canoe's relationship to, for example, colonialism, nationalism, environmentalism, and resource politics. To think about the canoe as a political vessel is to recognize how intertwined canoes are in the public life, governance, authority, social conditions, and ideologies of particular cultures, nations, and states. Almost everywhere we turn, and any way we look at it, the canoe both affects and is affected by complex political and cultural histories. Across Canada and the U.S., canoeing cultures have been born of activism and resistance as much as of adherence to the mythologies of wilderness and nation building. The essays in this volume show that canoes can enhance how we engage with and interpret not only our physical environments, but also our histories and present-day societies.
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"Authorized Heritage" analyses the history of commemoration at heritage sites across western Canada. Using extensive research from predominantly government records, it argues that heritage narratives are almost always based on national messages that commonly reflect colonial perceptions of the past. Yet many of the places that commemorate Indigenous, fur trade, and settler histories are contested spaces, places such as Batoche, Seven Oaks, and Upper Fort Garry being the most obvious. At these heritage sites, Indigenous views of history confront the conventions of settler colonial pasts and represent the fluid cultural perspectives that should define the shifting ground of heritage space. Robert Coutts brings his many years of experience as a public historian to this detailed examination of heritage sites across the prairies. He shows how the process of commemoration often reflects social and cultural perspectives that privilege a conventional and conservative national narrative. He also examines how class, gender, and sexuality often remain apart from the heritage discourse. Most notably, Authorized Heritage examines how governments became the mediators of what is heritage and, just as significantly, what is not.
Did You See Us?
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The Assiniboia school is unique within Canada's Indian Residential School system. It was the first residential high school in Manitoba and one of the only residential schools in Canada to be located in a large urban setting. Operating between 1958 and 1973 in a period when the residential school system was in decline, it produced several future leaders, artists, educators, knowledge keepers, and other notable figures. It was in many ways an experiment within the broader destructive framework of Canadian residential schools. Stitching together memories of arrival at, day-to-day life within, and departure from the school with a socio-historical reconstruction of the school and its position in both Winnipeg and the larger residential school system, Did You See Us? offers a glimpse of Assiniboia that is not available in the archival records. It connects readers with a specific residential school and illustrates that residential schools were often complex spaces where forced assimilation and Indigenous resilience co-existed. These recollections of Assiniboia at times diverge, but together exhibit Survivor resilience and the strength of the relationships that bond them to this day. The volume captures the troubled history of residential schools. At the same time, it invites the reader to join in a reunion of sorts, entered into through memories and images of students, staff, and neighbours. It is a gathering of diverse knowledges juxtaposed to communicate the complexity of the residential school experience.
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Creeland is a poetry collection concerned with notions of home and the quotidian attachments we feel to those notions, even across great distances. Even in an area such as Treaty Eight (northern Alberta), a geography decimated by resource extraction and development, people are creating, living, laughing, surviving and flourishing--or at least attempting to. The poems in this collection are preoccupied with the role of Indigenous aesthetics in the creation and nurturing of complex Indigenous lifeworlds. They aim to honour the encounters that everyday Cree economies enable, and the words that try--and ultimately fail--to articulate them. Hunt gestures to the movements, speech acts and relations that exceed available vocabularies, that may be housed within words like joy, but which the words themselves cannot fully convey. This debut collection is vital in the context of a colonial aesthetic designed to perpetually foreclose on Indigenous futures and erase Indigenous existence. the Cree word for constellation is a saskatoon berry bush in summertime the translation for policeman in Cree is mîci nisôkan, kohkôs the translation for genius in Cree is my kôhkom muttering in her sleep the Cree word for poetry is your four-year-old niece's cracked lips spilling out broken syllables of nêhiyawêwin in between the gaps in her teeth
A Short History of the Blockade
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In A Short History of the Blockade, award-winning writer Leanne Betasamosake Simpson uses Michi Saagiig Nishnaabeg stories, storytelling aesthetics, and practices to explore the generative nature of Indigenous blockades through our relative, the beaver--or in Nishnaabemowin, Amik. Moving through genres, shifting through time, amikwag stories become a lens for the life-giving possibilities of dams and the world-building possibilities of blockades, deepening our understanding of Indigenous resistance as both a negation and an affirmation. Widely recognized as one of the most compelling Indigenous voices of her generation, Simpson's work breaks open the intersections between politics, story, and song, bringing audiences into a rich and layered world of sound, light, and sovereign creativity. A Short History of the Blockade reveals how the practice of telling stories is also a culture of listening, "a thinking through together," and ultimately, like the dam or the blockade, an affirmation of life.
Spirit of the Grassroots People
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Raymond Mason is an Ojibway activist who campaigns for the rights of residential school survivors and a founder of Spirit Wind, an organization that played a key role in the development of the Indian Residential School Settlement Agreement. This memoir offers a firsthand account of the personal and political challenges Mason confronted on this journey. A riveting and at times harrowing read, Spirit of the Grassroots People describes the author's experiences in Indian day and residential schools in Manitoba and his struggles to find meaning in life after trauma and abuse. Mason details the work that he and his colleagues did over many years to gain recognition and compensation for their suffering. Drawing from Indigenous oral traditions as well as Western historiography, the work applies the concept of two-eyed seeing to the histories of colonialism and education in Canada. The memoir is supplemented by a final chapter in which Theodore Michael Christou and Jackson Pind put Mason's story into a historical and educational context. An essential key to understanding the legacy of Indian residential and day schools, this text is both a documentation of history and a deeply personal story of a human experience.
The Barren Grounds
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Narnia meets traditional Indigenous stories of the sky and constellations in an epic middle grade fantasy series from award-winning author David Robertson.
Morgan and Eli, two Indigenous children forced away from their families and communities, are brought together in a foster home in Winnipeg, Manitoba. They each feel disconnected, from their culture and each other, and struggle to fit in at school and at their new home -- until they find a secret place, walled off in an unfinished attic bedroom. A portal opens to another reality, Askí, bringing them onto frozen, barren grounds, where they meet Ochek (Fisher). The only hunter supporting his starving community, Misewa, Ochek welcomes the human children, teaching them traditional ways to survive. But as the need for food becomes desperate, they embark on a dangerous mission. Accompanied by Arik, a sassy Squirrel they catch stealing from the trapline, they try to save Misewa before the icy grip of winter freezes everything -- including them.
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Award-winning Nishnaabeg storyteller and writer Leanne Betasamosake Simpson returns with a bold reimagination of the novel, one that combines narrative and poetic fragments through a careful and fierce reclamation of Anishinaabe aesthetics. Mashkawaji (they/them) lies frozen in the ice, remembering a long-ago time of hopeless connection and now finding freedom and solace in isolated suspension. They introduce us to the seven main characters: Akiwenzii, the old man who represents the narrator's will; Ninaatig, the maple tree who represents their lungs; Mindimooyenh, the old woman who represents their conscience; Sabe, the giant who represents their marrow; Adik, the caribou who represents their nervous system; Asin, the human who represents their eyes and ears; and Lucy, the human who represents their brain. Each attempts to commune with the unnatural urban-settler world, a world of SpongeBob Band-Aids, Ziploc baggies, Fjällräven Kånken backpacks, and coffee mugs emblazoned with institutional logos. And each searches out the natural world, only to discover those pockets that still exist are owned, contained, counted, and consumed. Cut off from nature, the characters are cut off from their natural selves. Noopiming is Anishinaabemowin for "in the bush," and the title is a response to English Canadian settler and author Susanna Moodie's 1852 memoir Roughing It in the Bush. To read Simpson's work is an act of decolonization, degentrification, and willful resistance to the perpetuation and dissemination of centuries-old colonial myth-making. It is a lived experience. It is a breaking open of the self to a world alive with people, animals, ancestors, and spirits, who are all busy with the daily labours of healing -- healing not only themselves, but their individual pieces of the network, of the web that connects them all together. Enter and be changed.
Our Hearts Are as One Fire
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A vision shared. A manifesto. This remarkable work argues that Anishinabeg need to reconnect with non-colonized modes of thinking, social organization, and decision making in order to achieve genuine sovereignty. In Our Hearts Are as One Fire, Jerry Fontaine recounts the stories of three Ota'wa, Shawnee, and Ojibway-Anishinabe leaders who challenged aggressive colonial expansion - Obwandiac, Tecumtha, and Shingwauk. He weaves Ojibwaymowin language and knowledge with conversations with elders and descendants of the three leaders. The result is a book that reframes the history of Manitou Aki, sharing a vision of how Anishinabe spiritual, cultural, legal, and political principles will support the leaders of today and tomorrow.
Orange Shirt Day
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Orange Shirt Day is observed annually on September 30th to honour residential school survivors and their families, and to remember those who did not make it. This book explores the historical impact on Indigenous people in order to create champions who will walk a path of reconciliation through Orange Shirt Day, promoting the message that Every Child Matters.
The Reason You Walk
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A moving father-son reconciliation told by a charismatic First Nations broadcaster, musician and activist.
When his father was given a diagnosis of terminal cancer, Winnipeg broadcaster and musician Wab Kinew decided to spend a year reconnecting with the accomplished but distant aboriginal man who'd raised him. The Reason You Walk spans the year 2012, chronicling painful moments in the past and celebrating renewed hopes and dreams for the future. As Kinew revisits his own childhood in Winnipeg and on a reserve in Northern Ontario, he learns more about his father's traumatic childhood at residential school. An intriguing doubleness marks The Reason You Walk, a reference to an Anishinaabe ceremonial song. Born to an Anishinaabe father and a non-native mother, he has a foot in both cultures. He is a Sundancer, an academic, a former rapper, a hereditary chief, and an urban activist. His father, Tobasonakwut, was both a beloved traditional chief and a respected elected leader who engaged directly with Ottawa. Internally divided, his father embraced both traditional native religion and Catholicism, the religion that was inculcated into him at the residential school where he was physically and sexually abused. In a grand gesture of reconciliation, Kinew's father invited the Roman Catholic bishop of Winnipeg to a Sundance ceremony in which he adopted him as his brother. Kinew writes affectingly of his own struggles in his twenties to find the right path, eventually giving up a self-destructive lifestyle to passionately pursue music and martial arts. From his unique vantage point, he offers an inside view of what it means to be an educated aboriginal living in a country that is just beginning to wake up to its aboriginal history and living presence.
Invoking hope, healing and forgiveness, The Reason You Walk is a poignant story of a towering but damaged father and his son as they embark on a journey to repair their family bond. By turns lighthearted and solemn, Kinew gives us an inspiring vision for family and cross-cultural reconciliation, and a wider conversation about the future of aboriginal peoples.
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Winner of the 2017 Carol Shields Winnipeg Book Award, Margaret Laurence Award for Fiction, and the McNally Robinson Book of the Year Awards. When Stella, a young Metis mother, looks out her window one evening and spots someone in trouble on the Break -- a barren field on an isolated strip of land outside her house -- she calls the police to alert them to a possible crime. In a series of shifting narratives, people who are connected, both directly and indirectly, with the victim -- police, family, and friends -- tell their personal stories leading up to that fateful night. Lou, a social worker, grapples with the departure of her live-in boyfriend. Cheryl, an artist, mourns the premature death of her sister Rain. Paulina, a single mother, struggles to trust her new partner. Phoenix, a homeless teenager, is released from a youth detention centre. Officer Scott, a Metis policeman, feels caught between two worlds as he patrols the city. Through their various perspectives a larger, more comprehensive story about lives of the residents in Winnipeg's North End is exposed. A powerful intergenerational family saga, The Break showcases Vermette's abundant writing talent and positions her as an exciting new voice in Canadian literature.
From the Ashes
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*#1 NATIONAL BESTSELLER
*Winner, Kobo Emerging Writer Prize Nonfiction
*Winner, Indigenous Voices Awards
*Winner, High Plains Book Awards
*Finalist, CBC Canada Reads
*A Globe and Mail Book of the Year
*An Indigo Book of the Year
*A CBC Best Canadian Nonfiction Book of the Year
In this extraordinary and inspiring debut memoir, Jesse Thistle, once a high school dropout and now a rising Indigenous scholar, chronicles his life on the streets and how he overcame trauma and addiction to discover the truth about who he is.
If I can just make it to the next minute...then I might have a chance to live; I might have a chance to be something more than just a struggling crackhead.
From the Ashes is a remarkable memoir about hope and resilience, and a revelatory look into the life of a Métis-Cree man who refused to give up.
Abandoned by his parents as a toddler, Jesse Thistle briefly found himself in the foster-care system with his two brothers, cut off from all they had known. Eventually the children landed in the home of their paternal grandparents, whose tough-love attitudes quickly resulted in conflicts. Throughout it all, the ghost of Jesse's drug-addicted father haunted the halls of the house and the memories of every family member. Struggling with all that had happened, Jesse succumbed to a self-destructive cycle of drug and alcohol addiction and petty crime, spending more than a decade on and off the streets, often homeless. Finally, he realized he would die unless he turned his life around.
In this heartwarming and heart-wrenching memoir, Jesse Thistle writes honestly and fearlessly about his painful past, the abuse he endured, and how he uncovered the truth about his parents. Through sheer perseverance and education--and newfound love--he found his way back into the circle of his Indigenous culture and family.
An eloquent exploration of the impact of prejudice and racism, From the Ashes is, in the end, about how love and support can help us find happiness despite the odds.
The Marrow Thieves
Young adult softcover
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Winner of the 2017 Governor General's Literary Award (Young People's Literature - Text)
Winner of the 2017 Kirkus Prize
Winner of the 2018 Sunburst Award
Winner of the 2018 Amy Mathers Teen Book Award
Winner of the 2018 Burt Award for First Nations, Inuit and Métis Young Adult Literature
Just when you think you have nothing left to lose, they come for your dreams.
Humanity has nearly destroyed its world through global warming, but now an even greater evil lurks. The Indigenous people of North America are being hunted and harvested for their bone marrow, which carries the key to recovering something the rest of the population has lost: the ability to dream. In this dark world, Frenchie and his companions struggle to survive as they make their way up north to the old lands. For now, survival means staying hidden - but what they don't know is that one of them holds the secret to defeating the marrow thieves.
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A debut short story collection from one of Canada's most exciting new Aboriginal voices. "In our family, it was Trish who was Going To Be Trouble; I was Such a Good Girl." At times haunting, at times hilarious, Just Pretending explores the moments in life that send us down pathways predetermined and not-yet-forged. These are the liminal, defining moments that mark irreversible transitions n girl to mother, confinement to freedom, wife to murderer. They are the melodramatic car-crash moments n the outcomes both horrific and too fascinating to tear our eyes from. And they are the unnoticed, infinitely tiny moments, seemingly insignificant (even ridiculous) yet holding the power to alter, to transform, to make strange. What links these stories is a sense of characters working n both with success and without, through action or reaction n to separate reality from perception and to make these moments into their lives' new truths.